Patience

I thought that I was perfect when it came to patience. I was able to commute 3 hours a day (usually more because of traffic and delays) when I was in university, and I did not turn into a raging monster or complain to everyone I knew about it. I thought that I was good at commuting, at being patient. I guess it’s because I had compared myself to family members and friends who would always complain about how long commuting would take or how the bus is always late. I probably shouldn’t have done that. Thinking back, I realized just how much I didn’t like to complain, mainly because of how I had felt whenever somebody was complaining to me. I would feel annoyed, and I would always think, “Well, you made the choice to commute, and you knew that this would happen. So why are you complaining so much?” It’s funny now, because I would complain in my head whenever somebody was complaining to me. Such a hypocrite.

But what I’m trying to say is that I think my tendency to not complain has clouded my perception of how patient I truly am. And I’m definitely not perfectly patient. I’m not even perfect (nobody is, come on). I am human, and I try my best to be as reasonable and compassionate as I can be. It’s tough work. Not only because some people make it difficult, but because you get so wrapped up in your head about how difficult that one person is or how annoying that other person is… And you forget that you’re the one who is feeling that emotion. You’re the one who can change your mind to feel something else, something less destructive and more constructive. I know that’s a cliche, but cliches hold a lot of truth. And in order to truly uncover that truth, you have to live it.

And that’s what happened to me today. After spending the day in Toronto, I took the GO bus home. I knew that it would take longer than usual for me to get to my hometown, what with the snowfall and traffic, so I was fine with that. I wasn’t prepared for what happened after with my transfer bus, though. You always feel a but of anxiety when you make that transfer, because what if you miss it by 10 seconds? You have to wait 10 minutes for the next bus. And that’s what happened to me. Except I didn’t miss the transfer at all; I got to the station on time. It was the bus that missed me.

The bus that was scheduled didn’t show up on time. Normally, I would have called and gotten a ride from somebody at home. But no, I wanted to prove to myself that I was a better, more patient person. So I whipped out Eat, Pray, Love and read for at least 10 minutes. I didn’t even check my phone for the time. I thought to myself, “I’m so good at commuting. I’m so good at being patient.” But then, I realized that the bus was never going to come. I had thought that it would be several minutes late, but the heavens decided to laugh at me. It’s like I could hear God saying, “Oh, you think you’re that patient? Let’s see what happens with this.

It turns out that the bus would never arrive. The next scheduled bus would appear, though, 30 minutes later but on time. But boy, was I fuming. I was trying so hard to keep it together, to laugh it off like it was nothing. But I couldn’t help but start drafting the witty yet damning letter I would write to the transit system. I wouldn’t and couldn’t bring myself to be rude to the driver, I admit. And so I had to find a way to blow off some steam.

And when I got off the bus, something happened. I was fine. I didn’t want to yell at someone anymore. Was I finally getting over the anger? Was I finally beginning to control my thoughts and emotions in a positive way? Or was I just exhausted and wanted to see my dog? Probably all three. There’s nothing quite like unconditional love and unlimited kisses from a pet. But it was like I was cured! I didn’t understand it, but I think I do now. I was so focused on directing my anger at somebody that I ignored the fact that kindness can make that feeling go away. And I did make an effort to smile throughout the whole ordeal, to talk to the other people waiting in line, to make small talk with my neighbours. I think that little bit of effort, that conscious decision to flip that situation on its head, that helped me let go of that anger.

Maybe that’s the key to patience, then.

Advertisements

Emotional Freedom Technique: $

I tried emotional freedom technique (EFT) for the first time earlier last week, and it was such an interesting and uplifting experience. What happened was that my coach and I talked about some of my mental blocks surrounding money, since we’re working on wealth consciousness. The biggest block for me was that I thought it was really, really hard to earn money and that I shouldn’t spend it because it’s hard to get it back. And so we uncovered what exactly influenced that mindset, and we got to the root of the block. After, my coach showed me the tapping points that we would be working on:

  1. The “karate chop” or the pinky-side of a fist
  2. The top of the head
  3. Between the eyebrows (or your third eye if you’re thinking about the chakras – not the Naruto chakras, the Hindu/yogic chakras)
  4. The outer sides of the eyes (lower than the temples)
  5. Under the eyes
  6. Under the nose
  7. The chin
  8. Under the collarbones, and
  9. Under the armpit (where your ribs are, or if you wear a bra then where the bra band would be)

It’s an energy technique (so it makes you aware of where you direct your thoughts and energy, and changes it into something more positive) that’s like a meditative form of acupuncture. With the kind of EFT tapping that I did, my coach and I used a combination of tapping and verbal statements: We would go through the 9 tapping points, and my coach would come up with a statement at each point that I would have to repeat. It was definitely cathartic, since I said things out loud that I never would have even thought to myself. My dad was in the other room, and I wasn’t sure whether he could hear me or not, but I think that made me a little more self-conscious. I guess I was brave for going through with the entire EFT session without stopping to think about what my dad would think.

And those statements were very personal. I remember some of them:

  • “It’s so hard to earn money.”
  • “I know that it’s hard to get it [money] back.”
  • “My parents make me feel bad for buying the things that I want.”
  • “It’s my money.”

You may not understand why I had to say those things out loud, admit to them. That’s okay. Let me try to help you understand. So, I’ve always been made to believe that money is something that you save, not spend. It’s bad if you spend it on things that you like. It’s expected that you’re supposed to work hard in order to save a decent amount of money that you will then spend on things like a house or a car.

And I know that it’s such a first world problem – a problem of the privileged – but it honestly has negatively affected the way I go about life. I always second-guessed purchases. I remember in a high school math class, and the teacher had come up with a problem of buying $20 jeans. I heard a girl in my class say, “that’s such a good price!” when I was thinking in my head, “that’s so expensive.” So maybe it’s not really a first world problem. Maybe it’s more of a transition-from-one-socioeconomic-class-to-another problem. Or a generational and cultural shift that’s affected my families, as well as other families who transition from one country or class to another. And that’s the thing: I’m not in dire need of financial aid, and I’m not struggling to keep a roof over my head. So maybe the problem is that I think that I’m in a financial struggle?

Anyway, I think that what is most important is that I am working to free myself of mental blocks that are preventing me from living the fullest life possible. It will take some time, as I learn more about myself and learn to forgive myself for thinking that whatever I had felt before was wrong. I hope that I’ll be able to truly think for myself when it comes to money, and develop my own wealth consciousness. I hope that I’ll be able to not really control emotions, but influence them in such a way to improve my thoughts, my relationships, and my health. And I hope that, above all else, I’ll achieve a healthy balance between being free and being frugal. (This whole block about money just shows how it’s a human struggle to hover into perfect balance between the material and the metaphysical, our earthly tethers and the spiritual plane. But that’s for another post.)

Positive Procrastination

I’m currently in this coaching program called Passion Possible, and I’ve been learning so much from this experience already. I remember in one of our sessions, my coach said that there are times when procrastination is a good thing. She said that there are times when our gut is trying to tell us something, and our reaction is to delay an action to be done at a later time. It’s like an indirect and slower way of telling us something important.

And this got me thinking: when in my life has procrastination been a good thing? I came up with a few:

1. Procrastination prevented me from applying to grad school right after I had finished university. When I was in second year, I started to look at programs that would interest me. I found a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg (it’s a joint program) and immediately fell in love with it. I honestly thought that that was it for me. I had the same feeling when I stepped onto the Glendon College campus for the first time, and even when I was looking through university degrees on the York University website. Sometimes, though, gut reactions don’t reveal the whole truth to you right away.

2. Procrastination prevented me from applying to a job I wouldn’t like. I remember looking at a specific non-profit website, and saying to myself, “If all else fails, I’ll apply here.” I thought that this would be a last resort for me, a safety net, because it was in the field I was interested in and I knew I would learn a lot from the job. But then, I had looked up reviews on the organization itself, and they were overwhelmingly negative. So negative that I was sad that a non-profit I’d known since my preteen years seemed so chaotic internally. I am glad that I never felt so desperate as to get any job, even one that is kind of line with what I want. I know that I deserve better than a (quite honestly) lower than average salary at a job where the cons outweigh the pros.

3. Procrastination led me to the right path of following my passion and getting a job I would actually like. After I had quit my cushy job last September, I took it easy. Sure, I had an interview per month, which was an improvement from my last unemployment phase. But I became picky. I looked for alternative ways to find work. I networked more. I was open to new things. All of this led me to signing up for the Zero to Network program, and investing in my dreams. It also led me to looking at job postings less often (now I check once a week) and doing more research to learn about the organizations and people who are doing what I want to do. And most recently, I got a part-time job that I feel excited about with an organization and team that is passionate about developing stronger communities.

All of these things were my gut’s way of saying that I wasn’t on the right track, or that it knew where I should be and that I have to take a little more time to understand what was happening. It’s so interesting and comforting to know that a part of you is looking out for you and knows what it’s doing (because nobody here consciously does). And, looking back, I guess I can justify my procrastination in other things.

For example, in university, more than half the time, I would procrastinate on doing my readings, studying, and writing papers. At the time, I simply felt lazy, uninspired, and unmotivated – which were rooted in my fear of failure. That still applies now, but with this positive procrastination in mind, I can’t help but wonder if that was also my gut telling me that I wasn’t meant to take that one (or 10) class(es) in the first place. Which is unfortunate, because that could have saved me a lot of time doing something I had no interest in. But academic regrets are for another day and another post.

The point is that we should all pay closer attention to our emotions and gut reactions. I don’t know how, but they can reveal to us the truth about ourselves in such a way that it’s empowering and transformative. And if we use this knowledge, it can be a powerful tool in helping us live the lives that we want and deserve.

Brave

I never really saw myself as a courageous person. I’ve always considered myself as shy, quiet, smart, hesitant, lazy, etc. But I always wanted to be that brave person, the one who would dive headfirst into the murky depths of mystery and emerge confident and inspired. I would always (and still do) dream up these scenarios where I would be doing something attention-grabbing and cool and fun and people would see me in a good light – well, a better light than I would see myself. Always a Hufflepuff, dreaming of becoming a Gryffindor.

But let’s change that! Hufflepuffs are brave, too! Their whole house stayed to fight during the Battle of Hogwarts, and not because it was the cool thing to do. It was the right thing to do. (J.K. Rowling said it herself.) And doing the right thing can be one of the most courageous things that you can do.

So I’m going to do something that I’ve never tried before. I’m going to rewrite my story. I’m going to rewrite it in such a way that I am portrayed as a brave young woman.

Here are bits and pieces that I’m going to reword and re-evaluate so that I see myself in a more positive light:

1. I quit my cushy job after 6 months simply because I didn’t want to do it anymore: This is actually something a Gryffindor would do, now that I think about it. I didn’t want to stay seated in front of a computer and be on the phone all day, and I certainly didn’t want to not do anything about helping others who desperately need it. I wanted to find and follow my passion, and I knew that working at that job would not help me with that at all. So, in leaving something that was comfortable in pursuit of something that was quite the opposite, I showed guts.

2. I took that job in the first place: I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Even applying to the job seemed intimidating, and I was not used to the big, cubicle-filled office space that I had first encountered at my interview. And when I met the other hires during training – I felt like an incompetent idiot. I consider myself brave for sticking through all of this, for learning about the legal system, for learning how to actually do my job, and for dealing with the difficult clients. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and I had no idea how much I could more than handle it.

3. I changed my major from international studies to sociology nearly 4 months into my first year of undergrad: This was another change I made in order to pursue something that I loved. Well, not really “loved.” I knew I would be happier with sociology than with international studies. I had always felt lost and upset after every international studies class that I had. The concepts seemed so distant from me that I had no personal connection with the material, the professor was really intimidating, and I had to read all of these texts by mostly old, white men. (The texts by old, white men thing is unfortunately hard to avoid, as I found out later on.) And so I shifted gears and I did it early on, which I am proud of.

4. I told my first crush how I felt: Which, unfortunately, set the tone for the rest of my life up until now, and not in the way you would expect it to. So, it was the end of grade five, and I would be moving to another elementary school across town. I knew that this would be my only chance to tell the guy how felt. I foolishly and romantically thought that he would feel the same way, and we would start a prepubescent long-distance relationship… or something like that. I was 11. Anyway, it was a Sunday morning when I messaged him on MSN with those three dreaded words: “I like you.” And was immediately rejected. Obviously, I was crushed. I was embarrassed. I lied about everything the next day at school. And after that, whenever I felt so much as an inkling of infatuation or curiosity for another guy, I would squash it. I would deny that I felt that way, or I would not tell anyone or lie that I didn’t have a crush, or I would retreat to my thoughts and my journal and tragically pine for the poor dude. This continued throughout high school and university. I honestly hope that I’ll be brave enough to say those three words again, but until then, I’ll remember that one act of fearlessness that I had at 11. (Even if it was behind a computer screen.)

5. I shared this blog with my friends and am starting to post more frequently: I always wrote for myself. It was a therapeutic tool that I used to make sense of whatever I was feeling at the time, and a way to keep my thoughts and secrets to myself without feeling the need to burst with emotion. But recently, I wanted to do more with my writing, and see where it takes me. Yes, I do have dreams of getting published and having a big(ger) audience, but these kinds of dreams require me to work harder and be consistent. Also, writing (and any kind of art) is such an intimate and revealing way to connect with others. It’s this kind of vulnerability that I would hold at arm’s length (and would make me wish my arms were longer) and ignore. But now? Now, I’m diving headfirst. I’m sharing my thoughts with you, and I hope that you get something out of it. And I know that I’m brave for doing so.

Birthdays

There’s always something about birthdays that makes me introspective, that makes me pause and think about what another year of life means and what I’ve done and have yet to do. It can be uplifting, or it can be depressing. I’ve hovered somewhere in the middle for the most part, and I’m not sure how I can rise to that uplifting feeling. So let’s at least attempt it.

I turned 24 today. Not particularly exciting, but not exactly a big milestone of a birthday. At least not to me. Maybe I’m too young to realize it or too close to see the big picture. It makes me wonder, though, if this happens a lot to other people, at other stages of their (our) lives? And what does it mean to most people anyway, to celebrate another year on this earth? Do they just go about their daily business as usual, or they pull out all the stops and control every part of their lives so that every moment is one of pleasure and leisure? Which makes me wonder: is that right? Do I have a right to refuse to do any kind of work and to expect to be taken care of the entire day? Should I not treat this day as a once in a lifetime opportunity to kick back and not care for anything that’s not close to me? This is how I’ve hovered between the uplifting and the depressing; I suppose it’s a sort of balance that I’ve been able to maintain, but is it healthy? After all, I believe that balance is relative and personal: it depends on the person.

And for me, for the past several years, I have held the expectation that others ought to at least greet me or treat me with (a bit more) kindness on my birthday. I still check to see who has greeted me on Facebook and who hasn’t, and yes, I temporarily judge them for it. It’s that kind of thing that would make me consider removing them as a Facebook friend. Is that horrible of me? Probably. I don’t hold the set of rules that dictate social media etiquette for relationships. I guess I just want the attention, just for the day.

I also want little to no responsibilities for the day. No work, no errands, no chores. Is that selfish and privileged of me? Yes. I can’t help but feel that way, but I know that if something needs to be done, then I’ll do the work. I just feel less inclined to do any of the sort on my birthday.

But your birthday is, in fact, just one other day out of 365. Yes, it marks the first day of the next year of your life that has been granted to you. But instead of expecting a big celebration and for people to fall at your feet in adoration, maybe you should practice gratitude instead. Maybe I should take time out of my day to thank the people in my life for loving and supporting me, and for the experiences I’ve had so far that have shaped me. Maybe I should thank God or the universe or that great and powerful thing that put me here on this earth for giving me more opportunities to become a better person.

I read an article about a teacher at my high school who’s started a business at the age of 75. I never took any of her classes, but after reading about her, I came to admire her sense of gratitude and zest for life. She said, “When you’ve lived this long, you learn to be proud of who you are, and instead of just aging on a birthday, you achieve another year.” Isn’t that great? Maybe I’m not in the right mindset right now to completely understand or agree with that statement, but I know that there is truth in it. Like I said, I’m so close to what I’m feeling that I need time to step back and take it all in.

So instead of hoping for clarity in the future, I’ll focus on trying to get perspective in the present. So what does this birthday mean to me? It means that I have achieved another year of life; I’ve completed a year that was full of gifts and surprises and lessons. I learned a lot about myself and the people around me. And it also means that there is more to come. (I am an optimist by nature. It just takes a while whenever I’m feeling down.) There is a world – no – there are worlds of opportunities out there for me, just as there is limitless potential within. I’ve surprised myself this past year: I toughened up when talking to difficult clients, I was patient with others despite my growing frustration with whatever situation we were in, and I discovered that I can be more thoughtful and kind – and I’ve re-learned that kindness makes you a better person.

So let’s focus on the achievements of the past year, and work towards achieving more for the year ahead.

Emotional Perspective

I was in such a good mood this morning. Woke up early, went to yoga, checked some things off of the to do list, and felt optimistic about life and my career path.

And then, there was this build up of anger throughout the afternoon and evening. Usually I wouldn’t just feel this angry, but this time, it was like I was anger, and my skin just conveniently held it together until I would eventually explode. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Whenever I get upset about something, I would try to exercise or listen to music. Anything to let the heat fizzle out and switch the emotion with something better. And whenever I do this, I gain perspective on what is making me upset in the first place and what I can do about it. It always works.

This time, I went from Vlogbrothers videos to Postmodern Jukebox song covers, and that led me to watching Hozier’s music video for Take Me to Church for the first time. Doing anything late at night isn’t really a good thing for me, and with anything that would make me upset… Well, that’s just disastrous. (I remember watching clips of the saddest moments from Disney movies at like midnight, and just sobbing in my armchair for what felt like an hour. Like, what the hell? Why did I do that?) And what happened in this video was just awful. Hatred is… Well, I hate it.

But the video certainly put into perspective the problems that I had earlier today. Funny (for lack of a better word) how learning about universal hardships and horrifying real life problems always makes me shut up about what’s going wrong in my first world life. So, for that I am grateful.

But I have to wonder whether I will explode someday. And what will happen if I do.

Icy Conditions

I actually love winter. (Actually, I love all four seasons.) I always find the snow beautiful to look at and fun to play in. I love layering up and wearing dress coats and berets and pretending I’m an important and successful person – although I only changed my pants to go outside. I don’t find the frigid temperatures alarming and don’t feel the need to complain unless it leads to friendly small talk.

But if there’s one thing that I purposefully avoid during the winter, it’s the ice. I hate having to walk on it because I hate slipping and falling. I was one of those kids you saw on the rink who was holding onto the teacher, a friend, a pylon, a chair, or the wall. Rarely did I step away from my precious lifeline and actually try to skate by myself. I had chalked it up to the skates squeezing my wide feet to death, my non-Canadian-born parents being unable to pass on the skating gene, and eventually just my overall incompetence.

It’s funny – I always watch figure skating and hockey during the Olympics. The way they so gracefully yet dangerously whiz across the ice as they perform a triple toe or knock out some hoser’s tooth. It’s so fun to watch. And it would be so much more fun to actually do.

One of my all-time favourite moments on Parks and Recreation happens in season 4, when Leslie Knope is just starting to campaign for city council. She relies on her Parks team for an event and, naturally, it’s a disaster. The basketball court is converted to an ice rink, and they can’t afford enough red carpet to take Leslie to the podium. I don’t know why, but she makes the trip on the ice anyway – wearing heels! (I’m doing a terrible job at explaining this, so here‘s a link for you to watch. It’s amazing.)

Whoops, I lost my train of thought. I had gone from watching that Parks and Rec clip to a clip of Chris Traeger performing air banjo and then to Tom Haverford singing to Ann Perkins and then I realized I should get back to this post. (And that’s how you do a transition when you’re stuck!)

I’ve realized, though, that I wasn’t as afraid of falling down than the actual sensation of losing my balance of being on two feet. I know that I can get up again after I fall. Of course. But I don’t like the act of falling. When I had realized this, I also realized that this is how I approach life.

There’s (metaphorical) ice everywhere. You can’t help it. It’s down the path you want to go, it surrounds you on all sides so there’s no safe way to get anywhere, and there’s really nothing you can do about it other than cross it. I mean, why would you waste your time and energy trying to chip the ice away when you know it’s going to show up again? So you toughen up, gather your courage, and keep going. You’ll probably fall, and that’s normal. You’ll actually want to fall so you can realize that it’s not so bad as long as you can get up again. Eventually, you’ll go from walking in heels to gliding in skates. Ice can be fun. It can be exhilarating. You just have to give it a try.